INTRO Do your students get distracted really easily during class? Are they texting instead of paying attention to the lesson? Do you ask them a question for discussion and they look up the answer on their phone instead of using their textbook?
The good news is they aren&#x2019;t trying to be extremely disrespectful. They just learn differently. The youth of today are faced with a plethora of media and their brains have adapted to deal with it.
Now, it is our job to change our teaching style and the tools of the trade to meet their needs. It won&#x2019;t be all fun and games, but small steps will take us miles. One small step I have experimented with is using reflective blogs in the classroom.
In Marc Prensky&#x2019;s article, Digital Immigrants Digital Natives part 1, he writes ...&#x201D;This set the bar for me. I need to make a small change in the way children are using technology to learn. As useful as technology can be, we need to make sure we are using it for a purpose, not just to say we used it.
Here is a quick history of the Web 2.0 technologies commonly used in education. Not long ago, (10-15 years), the Web 1.0 dinosaur had its place in society. It was very high end and personal. To create websites in the Web 1.0 era was difficult. The user needed special training and a good knowledge of coding languages. The information in Web 1.0- was one-sided. It was comparable to the reference section of a library. There became a need for interaction and community, ergo the Web 2.0 world. With Web 2.0, everything is focused on the interaction it provides and the simplicity of editing the information. With this, some creditability is lost, but the value of the knowledge gained is worth it. Web 2.0 caters to the digital natives need for multitasking, random access and instant gratification. Using Web 2.0 tools in education teaches digital natives in a way they learn best with rapid guided discovery. A few of the common Web 2.0 tools are podcasts, VoIP, Wikis, and weblogs. Podcasts are readily available audio or video files that can be delivered using on RSS feed. Voice over Internet Protocol also known as VoiceOver IP or VoIP is a web application that uses internet bandwidth to make a phone call. It also allows for video chat so you can see the person you are talking to. A wiki is a website that allows for collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users. Last but not least, blogs are online journals that by nature organizes posts in reverse chronological order, so the newest entry is at the top of the page. Each of these tools have their place in the classroom. Podcasts have been used in the classroom as a way of reviewing students&#x2019; writings and to create walking tours of places. Another common use for podcasts are making advertisements. Voice Over IP is often used to connect classrooms across the globe. In her article, &#x201C;Clicking Across Cultures&#x201D;, Sandy Cutshall described a situation like this. Leslie Davidson&#x2019;s class was learning about Chilean culture. They had questions about the tooth fairy and such. To get the best answer for them, she called her friend Claudio in Chile via Skype, and the students were able to ask their questions to a class of Chilean students. Wikis are popular in classrooms because of the simplicity of editing among collaborators. It is often used in group projects where changing information is constant such as true in the world of technology. According to Zawilinski, &#x201C;Schools need to prepare students for these new literacies by integrating them into the curriculum and blogs are an easy way to begin.&#x201D; There are five common types of blogs used in the classroom today. Classroom news blogs and showcase blogs are often used for communication between teacher and parent/students. Mirror blogs and literature review blogs are typically used to record students&#x2019; reflections on an event or a piece of literature. The last type of blog is a collaborative class blog. This blog allows the students to work together to produce the information.
This study was broken into two cycles. Overall, the information presented in an hour long session every Friday for 18 weeks. It was part of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club SmartMoves program, which teaches 3rd grade students about being street smart. The last 5-10 minutes of each session was dedicated to blogging. For Cycle 1, I had two classes involved. One class was not blogging and the other class had a collaborative class reflection blog. To start the cycle, I showed the students of the blogging class a video by Commoncraft called &#x201C;Blogs in Plain English.&#x201D; Then I taught them how to set up a blog using EduBlogs. Over the next couple of weeks, we posted to our blog weekly, reviewed several other class blogs, and left comments on them. For cycle 2, instead of having the class blog, I had a few students blog. The procedure was very similar to cycle 1, with the exception of it being an individual blog. During both cycles, I had a student of the same age at a different school leaving comments on the blog, so the students would have an audience.
From my observations, the class that blogged did better than the class that didn&#x2019;t. The students paid more attention to the discussion and were able to remember more the next week. The typically quite students offered up information to post in the blog. Also, when students couldn&#x2019;t figure out how to word something correctly, other students jumped in to help. Overall, the students worked fairly well together on the blog. There were a few chaotic moments when students were shouting out instead of waiting to be called on but overall it worked well.
I would say that Cycle 2 proved to be more successful than Cycle 1. The students worked better as individuals than as a group. The students who were blogging were more attentive than those who were not and since they were keeping individual blogs, they felt they had more control over their opinion and reflection. Overall, the students who blogged seemed to remember more of the lesson than those who did not. They enjoyed knowing that their blog was being read. It motivated them to pay closer attention to the lesson and stay focused even when other students were being distracting.
In conclusion, I would advise blogging in the classroom to gain and keep the attention of your students. It is simple to do and the students learn not only academics from it but ethics. It allows them to build networks that they would not have in the standard classroom. If you do not have the time or computers for individual blogs, a collaborative class blog is better than not blogging at all. If I were to do the project again, I would make a few minor changes such as allowing more time for blogging, having all the students have an individual blog, and networking the blogs with other teachers, so there are several blogs for the students to review and build a community.
Action Research Project:
Blogging in the
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